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Medieval settlement and associated field system and post-medieval chapel, adjacent to Manor House Farm

A Scheduled Monument in High Worsall, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.4783 / 54°28'41"N

Longitude: -1.4061 / 1°24'21"W

OS Eastings: 438582.275129

OS Northings: 509379.820272

OS Grid: NZ385093

Mapcode National: GBR LJMN.DF

Mapcode Global: WHD79.CPPQ

Entry Name: Medieval settlement and associated field system and post-medieval chapel, adjacent to Manor House Farm

Scheduled Date: 7 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019065

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31359

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: High Worsall

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Kirk Levington St Martin

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes substantial earthwork and buried remains of the small
medieval village of High Worsall, parts of its surrounding field system and a
post-medieval ruined chapel and graveyard. It is located on elevated ground
on the south east bank of the River Tees and occupies the whole of the field,
known as Chapel Garth, which is east of Manor House Farm and parts of the
surrounding fields. The most prominent earthworks lie in the north of Chapel
Garth field and also extend into the southern part of the field to the north.
Further less prominent earthworks occupy the remainder of Chapel Garth field.
In the northern part of the field to the south of Chapel Garth, the remains of
the village have been reduced by agricultural activity and are no longer
visible as earthworks, although buried remains can be clearly seen on aerial
The village developed in the late 10th and 11th centuries as an irregular
collection of properties grouped together around a network of trackways and
lanes. This was then replaced by a planned village built after the `Harrying
of the North' in 1069/70 when a rebellion by the native population against the
Norman invasion was suppressed with great ferocity, causing widespread
devastation throughout the land. Throughout the region regular planned
settlements were built to replace existing ones. By 1086 the first known
documentary reference to High Worsall appears in the Domesday Book, where it
was called Wercshel. The village is mentioned in 1204 when a chapel is
recorded as being present and again in 1285 when it was apparently thriving.
However, by the 14th century High Worsall, in common with other villages in
the area, suffered a decline in fortune due to bad harvests, disease and raids
by the Scots. By the end of the century it was almost completely deserted. The
exact date and pattern of desertion is currently uncertain, but in 1354 the
lord of the manor created a deer park. This may have led to the final
clearance and abandonment of the site to allow for its incorporation into the
park. The nearby settlement of Low Worsall may have absorbed the remaining
The ruined chapel, which was dedicated to St John, lies in the centre of
Chapel Garth, surrounded by a small fenced graveyard. It stands on a large
earthen platform partly overlying the later village street and may stand on
the site of the medieval church. It is a small, stone built single cell
building measuring approximately 10m by 6m, and only the walls are upstanding,
to a maximum height of approximately 2m. The surrounding graveyard, which has
a number of erect headstones, measures 55m by 40m. At the time of the
construction of the chapel in the 18th century it is documented that there
were some six buildings at High Worsall, but these are likely to have been on
the site of the current farm complex and may not have been old. The chapel
still stood as a roofed structure in 1908 and the graveyard was used into the
20th century, with its latest headstone dated 1957.
Recent research has revealed two distinct phases of settlement. The first
survives as visible village remains associated with the pre-Norman settlement
which lie to the east of the chapel ruins. These include a series of tracks
and lanes laid out in an irregular pattern. Within these there are earthwork
remains of rectangular buildings and the boundary banks of yards or small
The second phase of settlement is substantially different and included two
rows of buildings located on the north and south sides of Chapel Garth
separated by a large predominately open area which functioned as a village
green. This green partly occupies the site of the earlier village. The
reorganised settlement has a planned and regular layout. The northern row
survives as substantial earthworks which include a set of regular enclosures
known as tofts and crofts typical of a planned medieval settlement. The tofts
enclosed dwellings and other buildings which survive as rectangular building
platforms and would have fronted onto the village green, with the enclosed
croft to the rear being used for domestic horticulture and stock keeping. The
boundaries of these crofts survive as low earthen banks up to 0.5m high
defining areas up to 15m east to west by 5m north to south. The north row
extends for approximately 150m from the north east to south west and includes
five tofts. To the front of the north row of tofts lies a wide village street
up to 40m wide which may have originated as part of the first phase of the
village. The southern row of tofts has been reduced by agricultural activity
and no longer survives as upstanding earthworks. However, buried remains are
clearly visible on aerial photographs and indicate a similar arrangement to
the north row. One of the building platforms on the north row was partly
excavated in 1997 and revealed the remains of a collapsed house. This house
originally had a flagged floor and stone and clay walls with a simple timber
frame and a thatched roof.
To the south west of the chapel, just at the top of the break of slope,
further excavations in 1997 revealed the footings for a substantial timber
framed building. A silver coin and pin, metal work and pottery were also
recovered, all of which indicate the presence of a high status building
thought to be the remains of a manor house associated with the medieval
The remains of the field system survive as two blocks of ridge and furrow,
providing evidence of medieval ploughing and cultivation, on the slope to the
south west of the chapel. Further areas of ridge and furrow survive to the
north of the village remains. Within this latter area of the field system is
an earthwork platform measuring 20m long by 8m wide which is probably the
remains of an agricultural building.
All gates and fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more.
The Northern Vale of York local region has been identified on two criteria.
First, it contains low numbers of nucleations when compared with the rest of
the sub-Province: village depopulation may partly account for this. Secondly,
there are greater densities of dispersed settlement than is normal for the
sub-Province, a phenomenon which cannot yet be fully explained.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, sited at the centre
of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow and
woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but when they survive as
earthworks their most distinguishing features include roads and minor tracks,
platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed
crofts and small enclosed paddocks. They frequently included the parish church
within their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system most villages
included one or more manorial centres which may also survive as visible
remains as well as below ground deposits. In the northern province of England,
villages were the most distinctive aspect of rural life, and their
archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding
about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest.
Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on
large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were subdivided into
strips (known as landes) which were allocated to individual tenants. The
cultivation of these strips with heavy ploughs pulled by oxen teams produced
long, wide ridges, and the resultant `ridge and furrow' where it survives is
the most obvious physical indication of the open field system. Individual
strips or landes were laid out in groups known as furlongs defined by terminal
headlands at the plough turning points and lateral grass balks. Furlongs were
in turn grouped into large open fields. Well-preserved ridge and furrow,
especially in its original context adjacent to village earthworks, is both an
important source of information about medieval agrarian life and a distinctive
contribution to the character of the historic landscape. It is usually now
covered by the hedges or walls of subsequent field enclosure.
High Worsall medieval settlement and associated field system, and post-
medieval chapel retains important archaeological remains, both earthwork and
buried. These demonstrate the transition from the early pre-Norman Conquest
irregular village to a more formal planned settlement following the invasion.
Recent excavation and survey work has shown that significant evidence of the
social and economic history of the settlement and its ultimate decline and
abandonment will be preserved.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Grifiths, M, Medieval Villages of the Tees Lowlands, (1976)
Grifiths, M, Medieval Villages of the Tees Lowlands, (1976)
Taylor, T, Time Team the Site Reports, (1976), 52-57
Taylor, T, Time Team the Site Reports, (1998), 52-57

Source: Historic England

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